Interview:Nathan Hoobler (July 2005)
- Hey Nathan! How are you? Here is my first question. What is it like creating and running the lives of fictional characters in a small town? How does that feel?
It’s really a lot of fun. The thing about “running” these lives is that you have to run them in a way that’s consistent with what the characters have done for the past 18 years. You can’t have Bart suddenly going off and being a goody-two-shoes without explanation. So even though we get to “run” their lives, the characters have a say (in a way) because they already have personalities.
It can be a little scary to think that we’re actually “controlling lives” of these characters but only until we realize the huge responsibility that we have in creating the show for our millions of listeners. That’s even more scary.
- Wow! I never thought about that! That really must be scary. So do you ever feel, when writing a scene for a character, that this doesn't feel like a realistic thing for this person to do? IE, when writing for Connie, do you suddenly stop, and say to yourself, "This doesn't feel like Connie. She isn't right."? If so, do you start writing the scene over, start the storyline over, or what?
Yes. It often happens. We’ll outline something, but they when we start writing, we realize, “Wait a minute. Eugene wouldn’t act like this. He’s too mature for this.” or “This doesn’t make sense any more because Whit would realize, etc, etc.” When that happens, we go back and look at the outline. Often there’s a way to save the show by switching some things around or changing a character’s motivation or even switching characters.
- Man, I never thought that writing an ep was that hard! When creating a new character, whether it be a main character or temporary character, do you have an particular way of creating a character? Do you look at the show, and see what kind of character would help the series, or just create a new, interesting character? Like with Wooton, why was he created? Did the show need him? Or was it just time to introduce a new character?
Currently, we’re trying not to create any new characters because we feel like we have enough great ones on the show as it is. However, when we do introduce a new character, we try to think about what would make the character interesting. You don’t want a boring character that doesn’t have anything unique about them. There are lots of things that make characters interesting, such as a phrase they say, a unique style of speech, an interesting background. Sometimes you can make the character have a few opposite personality traits. For example, if the character seems very cynical on the outside, but has a big heart. (This was the idea for Bernard.) With Wooton, we asked comedian Torry Martin to create a character based on his stage persona. So Wooton is based largely on Torry himself and he’s become a terrific character, one of the most-loved on the series. I think it’s okay to reveal this now, but Wooton was also brought in during the time that Eugene was gone to have another character in that vein, who could be very comedic, but also very heartfelt.
- This is a question/suggestion. Do you think that AIO is ready to have a huge shake up? Be turned on it's head? A way to make it fresh and exciting? Not to say AIO is bad now, mind you. But, has this been discussed?
- As one of the biggest Novacom saga fans, I give you guys major points for that saga. It was amazing. And, as a huge fan, I have been wondering one thing since the end of #499: “Exit”...........Can you tell me 100% that Novacom/Andromeda/The Chairman will or will not come back?
I think it was a pretty big shakeup when Will Ryan came back. That certainly changed the way we wrote. Having Eugene and Harlow around again is like having a whole bunch of new toys to play with (and I mean that in the best possible way).
We have talked about a shakeup of some sort, but I personally don’t believe that now is the time. We have some big and great stuff coming up this fall, but we’ll still have the "classic" Odyssey feel. That’s not to say that we won’t have different and unusual episodes. But I think the Odyssey "formula" has worked for 18 years so we wouldn’t want to change it TOO much. Once we get a few more years beyond the Novacom saga (which may have been the second biggest "shakeup" in the show’s history, after Whit leaving), we might have another shakeup of some sort.
We don’t have any plans for the Chairman to return in the near future, but he’s still out there. After all, he did say, "It’s over...for NOW."
- Well, I'm disappointed, but I'll live. Just a few more questions about Novacom; When you were planning the Novacom saga, did you intend it to be as big as it ended up being? Was there anything that you wanted to do during the saga and didn't have time for?
The Novacom saga was Paul McCusker’s idea and we knew from the very beginning that it would be a very big story. We knew a lot of the details of how things would play out, but not all of them. Some things changed as we worked with the actors and some things changed with fan feedback on different aspects of the story. We knew that it would end with the black box and “radio waves to brain waves,” but we weren’t sure exactly how the climax itself would play out. We also were hoping that we would have Eugene come back at some point during the arc, but that didn’t happen, so we had to change a few things. As you may (or may not) know, we originally intended AREM to be Richard Maxwell, but the actor wasn’t available. There were several elements (such as Whit's End Connellsville) that I think we could have done more with if we had more time. There are always things that change as you get going in a story, but in the end, I’m happy with how things played out.
- Ok, time to move on. Would you consider bringing Tasha back? She was one of my favorite characters. Also, do you guys ever plan to bring Monica back?
And as just a suggestion, I, and quite a few others, would like to see (hear actually!) Wooton and Harlow together in an ep. Oh how funny that would be! And, Eugene needs to meet/have a ep with Wooton. I would be interested to see what he thinks of him!
The actress who plays Tasha is currently in Florida, so she’s not available. But that’s not to say she could never come back. (Incidentally, Tasha was originally a main character in #440: “I Slap Floor” before it was changed to Richard Maxwell.) No plans for Monica currently, but that’s not to say she never will be. The actress was terrific, so we’d love to use her again.
Wooton and Harlow will be in #572: “Odyssey Sings!” on July 9, though they don’t actually talk to each other. We definitely need them to talk at some point.
- Ok, last question(s). When will we be hearing from the following characters again?
- The Washingtons
- The Barclays
- Detective Ethan (from 'The Perfect Witness)
- Jenny (the blind girl)
- The Shepards
- The DeWhites
- The kid in #563: “Tuesdays with Wooton”
- Is there any chance of us seeing Jason being connected by the Agency and going on an adventure? Will we even hear from the Agency again?
- When will we be hearing from the Rathbones again? More importantly, will we ever hear from Doris again?
We have plans for Jason to be part of a story arc coming up this fall. However, he won’t be in any episodes this fall.
These guys will be in several episodes this fall. We have one very fun show coming up (probably in the spring) that’s sort of a follow up to #552: “Sunday Morning Scramble”.
Edwin and Shakespeare
As you may know, Earl Boen moved to Hawaii, so it’s harder to get him for a session. We recorded him “remotely” for #568: “The Power of One” and we plan to continue that on occasion.
We have no current plans for the Barclays.
Detective Ethan (from 'The Perfect Witness)
Jenny (the blind girl)
Same deal. Also, the actress who plays Jenny has grown up so it’s very doubtful that she’ll be back.
We have an episode starring the Shepards coming up in the fall. It’s call #579: “Always”.
The kid in 'Tuesdays With Wooton'
Grady is his name and he is in at least three shows this fall.
We definitely will be exploring more of Wooton’s family and his past, but not this fall.
Whit's daughter and grandkids
Believe it or not, we WILL hear from Jana this fall, but perhaps not in the way you expect.
Mary will not be returning. At least I don’t think so.
No plans for Barry either. If we return to the Novacom saga sometime in the future (it would still be a long way down the road), it’s always possible that Barry could be involved.
Mitch will not be returning. At least for a very long time.
We don’t have any plans for the Agency currently, but that’s not to say it will never happen.
The entire Rathbone family is in an episode that’s coming up probably in the spring. Bart is in a couple of shows this fall.
- Nathan, thanks for taking time to let me interview you. It was a pleasure!
Thanks! It was fun